December 1973. Defoe House was part of Phase II of the City’s building programme for the Barbican site. It was known as Block IV until completed. The original contractor was Turriff Limited. After long delays and labour disputes Turriff were allowed to leave the site and their buildings were completed by John Laing Construction Limited.
The building consists of twelve bays between giant concrete columns. Each bay contains a staircase and lift. In each bay on each floor there are two flats, one on either side of the staircase unit. The flats ‘wrap round’ the staircase unit at front and back. The bays are subdivided into three ‘room’ spans, so that one of the two flats has a two room span and the other has a one room span at front or back. As a result, on most floors, the flats are ‘L’-shaped and fit together round the staircase units so that one has a two span living room and a one span bedroom and the other has a one span living room and two bedrooms. This pattern is repeated along the building. There are seven storeys above podium with two storeys beneath. The podium is open under the upper structure of the building and has glazed entrances to the flats in each of the twelve bays. The top floor (which has to be reached by a flight of stairs) contains two penthouses per bay with barrel vaulted roofs and ceilings.
Defoe House is a terrace block running east to west and positioned roughly between Lauderdale Tower and the Barbican Arts Centre. Defoe House forms the northern side of Thomas More Gardens which it overlooks to the south. On the north (rear) side it overlooks Shakespeare Tower and Defoe Place.
Defoe House is an ‘east-west’ or ‘front to back’ block which means that it runs from east to west and the flats go through the whole depth of the block with living rooms at the front (facing south) and the bedrooms at the back (facing north).
Defoe House is one of four very similar terrace blocks: Andrewes House and Speed House which face each other over Speed Gardens and the lake; and Thomas More House and Defoe House, which face each other over Thomas More Gardens. However, although many of the same flat types make up most of the flats in each house, there are many differences – most markedly in the nature of the ‘garden’ of sub-podium flats which are very different in each block.
Defoe House contains 178 flats and maisonettes (numbered 1 – 178) of which 24 are roof-top penthouses. Living rooms have a view of the garden or the lake and bedrooms look out over Beech Gardens or Shakespeare Tower at the other. There are some flats below podium level which have a view over Thomas More Gardens, but no direct access.
For each staircase there are glazed entrance doors at podium level on Defoe Place and in the underground car park at street level. Staircase No. 1 nearest Lauderdale Tower also gives access at 01 level to Lauderdale Place. Some of the garden flats can be reached by separate stairs between the pillars on the podium.
Lifts and staircases
The building is divided into 12 bays between giant columns. Each bay has a staircase and lift, which serve two flats on each floor. There are 12 staircases numbered 1 to 12. Staircase 1 uniquely opens at street level (01) and has a security camera.
On 01 level there is access to the Defoe House / Shakespeare Tower car park, whose street entrance is off Beech Street.
There are tenants’ stores which can be accessed at street level from Lauderdale Place (at staircase No. 1) and at a lower level accessed down steps next to Lambert Jones Mews.